September 26, 2021

Controlling critters: Tips for limiting slugs, voles in no-till fields

16 ways to reduce pests

JENERA, Ohio — No-till and cover crop fields can be a hot spot for slugs and voles.

Jim Hoorman, a soil health consultant, said both critters thrive in dense, lush moisture and vegetation. No-till fields provide a stable, undisturbed environment.

Hoorman shared ways to control pests at the National No-Tillage Conference.

“When we have cool, wet springs, it leads to higher slug and vole populations,” he said. “Whenever we have green vegetation and cover crops, that’s more food and habitat for voles and slugs.

“Mild winters cause less slug and vole mortality. We can see more eggs being laid by slugs, and more litters of voles being produced.”

Best Ways To Reduce Voles And Slugs

1. Mow or graze cover crops to reduce height to less than eight inches, to allow more predators in the fields to prey on voles.

2. Plant grain crops deep, more than two inches, and close trench.

3. Spread chaff evenly in fall.

4. Prevent pest migration — control weedy vegetation along fence rows and buffers.

5. Rotary hoe/harrow in spring — and fall, if needed — to avoid matted residue.

6. Drill in all grain crops and cover crops to get seed below soil surface.

7. Drill higher populations of soybeans.

8. Plant 50% cover crops that winter kill.

9. Scout and monitor in fall and 30 to 45 days before planting date.

10. Utilize tools such as shingles for slugs, perches for voles or bird houses.

11. Select fast-emerging and growing grain crops.

12. Avoid over-hunting predators, such as fox and coyotes, for voles.

13. Promote ground beetles and beneficial insects that eat slugs.

14. Get a dog for voles. Rat terriers are good at this job.

15. Try alternative foods for slugs.

16. Tillage, although it is less than 60% effective.

These 12 practices promote vole and slug infestations:

1. Planting cover crops too early.

2. Dense, thick, tall vegetation, especially along ditches, fence lines and buffers.

3. Seeds, lush vegetation and emerging leaves.

4. No-till or minimal soil disturbance.

5. Unharvested seeds.

6. Broadcast cover crop seeds.

7. Chaff not evenly spread.

8. Mild winters and wet springs.

9. Open trench at planting.

10. Slow spring growth, cold and wet conditions.

11. Grasses such as cereal rye, oats and wheat. Legumes and forages such as soybeans, winter pears, clover and alfalfa.

12. Weeds such as dandelion, ragweed, lambsquarter and plantain.

More information about the National No-Tillage Conference is available at

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor